Ten Lords A-Leaping by CC Benison

Would have benefited from the guillotine…

😐 😐 😐

ten lords aleapingWhile taking part in a charity parachute jump, vicar Tom Christmas (yes, that’s right, Father Christmas) injures his ankle and is forced to stay with friends in the nearby manor house of Eggescombe Hall. This means he’s on hand to do a bit of amateur detecting when one of his fellow guests is found murdered in the middle of the labyrinth in the ground of the hall. Well, he couldn’t leave it up to the somewhat incompetent duo of Detectives Blessing and Bliss, could he? (Yes, that’s right, Blessing and Bliss!)

This is a fairly cosy murder mystery with a country house setting, well written and with a good deal of light humour. Had it been roughly half the length, it would have been a very enjoyable read. Unfortunately it is so padded with unnecessary description and a huge cast of characters, most of whom are merely there to fill up space, that I found it a real struggle to get through. It took me about a third of the book to get the main characters sorted in my mind and even at the end I found I was still having to think back to work out who hated who and why. Partly that’s because there are so many Lords and Ladies, all referred to sometimes by name and sometimes by title; partly it’s because several of the characters don’t really develop much of a distinctive personality until quite late on; and partly it’s because most of the suspects (and the victim) are so unpleasant that I didn’t really care whodunit. To add to the problems, there is also a sub-plot which clearly carries over from previous books and is referred to on and off throughout, but it isn’t until near the end that we are told what happened before, meaning that this is a constant frustration and distraction for anyone coming new to the series.

CC Benison
CC Benison

There are good points. Tom himself is a very well developed character, and much less twee than his name suggests. We mainly get to know Tom’s avidly curious housekeeper through the very funny letters she writes to her mother, which provide an on-going (and much-needed) summary of the plot so far every now and again. The plot hangs together fairly well, although it is pretty far-fetched, and there are plenty of suspects and red herrings. But overall, there is just too much of everything, and there were several points where I could have cheerfully given up.

I suspect that there is a good book in there struggling to get out but, for me, it didn’t make it. However, I feel the series has potential in terms of the writing and Tom Christmas as a character, if only Benison (yes, that’s right, Benison!) can work out how to apply a much tighter focus…and get rid of the silly names.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House.

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34 thoughts on “Ten Lords A-Leaping by CC Benison

  1. FirctionFan – You make such a good point about character development. I think there is such a thing as too many characters actually, and it’s even more of an issue when the characters don’t have distinctive ‘selves’ and personalities. Little wonder you found it hard to keep them all sorted out. And please don’t get me started on ‘padding.’ I think it so much takes away from the quality of a story.

    • And calling the characters by more than one name just adds to the complication. Padding seems to be becoming more and more of a problem. Since so many people mention it as an issue, you’d think authors and publishers would realise that it’s very off-putting. Sometimes I wonder if they actually pay any attention to the feedback…

  2. 😆 What interesting names! 😆 Are Blessing and Bliss both…guys?

    It is a pity…how many pages (or words) is it?

    Maybe the author wanted his characters to know what it was like to have a wicked name…

    • My theory is that it all comes down to this ‘be nice to everyone’ approach that we’ve gone down over the last couple of decades – like at school where everyone gets a prize regardless of achievement. So editors now tell authors how great they are, instead of getting out the red pencil and giving them a stern talking to… 😉

  3. Hurray, another one not for the TBR list. I think I started one of the earlier books, but gave up about halfway through when potentially terminal boredom set in……..:)

  4. Crime novels are a genre I have read very little of but I have promised myself to add a few to my TBR. Being Scottish I thought I would start with a patriotic choice; Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels. Good idea?

    • Great idea! Like most series they’re best if you read them in order, but each one also works perfectly well as a standalone if you’d rather read one of the more current ones. The new one – Saints of the Shadow Bible – is one of the best, IMO.

      • I think I will them read them in order and it should be easy to get the first one as we have a lot of Ian Rankin books in the bookshop where I volunteer.

          • Oh definitely. As far as crime novels go I have only read some Agatha Christie’s novels in the 1970s and 1980s which I didn’t like and all of Colin Dexter’s ‘Morse’ books in the 1990s and again I didn’t like them. I only read the Morse books because of my love for the series but the books where a let down. The only crime novels I enjoyed where those of Raymond Chandler which again I read in the 1970s.

            • I’m a huge fan of Christie, but I think of them more as ‘mystery’ than ‘crime’ – what might today be called ‘cosy’. (All these genres are too confusing!) I tried a couple of the Morse books but they didn’t really appeal to me – I need to be able to like the main character really, and I found Morse pretty unlikeable. Of Chandler, I’ve only read The Big Sleep, which I enjoyed, and have been meaning to read some of the others for ages.

              Of those, I’d say Rebus is most like Morse, but in my view tons better. My other favourite crime writer, not Scottish, is Reginald Hill (Dalziel & Pascoe) – he really was writing ‘proper’ fiction by the end of the series, not ‘just’ crime. In his case, the books were far better than the TV series, though I quite enjoyed it too.

  5. Oh my! I totally agree with padding, too many characters with similar (or stupid) names are tiring to read. Love your comment about everyone being a winner as it is one of my favourite rants! So glad you don’t have another one for my TBR this week but sad for you!

  6. A very balanced review… even though I haven’t read the book myself. It’s always difficult to write a review of a book you sort of liked. I refuse to review books I really don’t like, as it is only my opinion and I don’t like putting down an author who has probably poured out his soul into his work.

    • Thanks! I started out only reviewing books I liked, but through Amazon Vine and now NG, I’m often reviewiing books I’ve been specifically given for review, so feel obliged. They say the publishers prefer negative reviews to no reviews – seems crazy to me, but what do I know? These days I automatically review every book I read, but fortunately I like far more of them than I don’t… 🙂

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